There’s this movie called Up in the Air. Maybe you’ve seen it. It came out in 2009, and it’s about a guy– played by the perpetually dashing George Clooney– whose job is to fire people. He gives advice to a new, much younger colleague on how to do the job right, and along the way doles out some advice about life, too:
“How much does your life weigh?
Imagine for a second that you’re carrying a backpack. I want you to pack it with all the stuff that you have in your life… you start with the little things. The shelves, the drawers, the knickknacks, then you start adding larger stuff… the backpack should be getting pretty heavy now. You go bigger. Your couch, your car, your home… I want you to stuff it all into that backpack. Now I want you to fill it with people. Start with casual acquaintances, friends of friends, folks around the office… your brothers, your sisters… You get them into that backpack. Feel the weight of that bag…”
He concludes bleakly (“The slower we move the faster we die.”) but his message is poignant, and unwittingly apt for the world of presentation.
Think of your presentation as a backpack. Feel the weight of it. How heavy is it? Can you carry it with ease or is it dragging on the ground behind you?
Is your presentation bogged down by too many words, too many visuals or too many slides?
You have to add five more slides? That’s more weight in the bag. Need to insert one extra objective? More weight.
Now imagine the weight of your backpack on your audience’s shoulders. Is it too light? Is it too heavy? Is the weight of the pack appropriate for the content inside? You must consider these questions as you craft your presentation because the weight of your backpack– your presentation– will be on another person’s shoulders when you’re done.
Do what you can to avoid giving your audience a heavy backpack. Remember, their backpacks are already full– of people, places, things, emotions, dreams, and on and on.
Presentation Tip: Don’t saddle your audience with the task of finding room in their “backpack” for a cumbersome, bulky presentation.
Give them something light and airy that fits in there nicely.
What can you do to simplify your presentation? How can you condense those five slides into one? How can you make that text-heavy slide into five separate slides with little text? Can you find a way to depict a concept visually instead of with text? Can you find a way to explain that slide in a sentence rather than in a paragraph? Simplicity is key. It’s a characteristic present in any outstanding presentation.
Presentation Tip: People respond favorably to easy to understand, easy to digest information, and they like that unencumbered information to be packaged in a neat, minimalist design.
Use words economically in your presentation– pretend like you have to pay for each one you use. Channel Ernest Hemingway’s writing style when working with your content: terse, concise and to the point, with nothing superfluous or extraneous. The power of your presentation depends on your ability to embrace simplicity.
How can you simplify your backpack?